The Preacher's Pen: Rethinking Old Issues

Whatever happened to consistency? In a tract entitled Fallacies and Fruits of Liberalism Dave Miller writes “The construction of gymnasiums and ‘family life centers’ is the result of misguided efforts to address family problems and needs through entertainment and pleasure (the social gospel). They are mere human substitutes for what people really need to sustain us … if we will sit down, examine our hearts and be honest with ourselves, we will see that the desire for numbers and big buildings which cost millions of dollars are nothing more than appeals to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”

Amen! And again, we must say, “Amen!” However, I now hold a meeting announcement for a series of meetings at which brother Miller will speak, and the flyer announces two meals served at the building as well as coffee and doughnuts!

Sadly, this lack of consistency about patterns is becoming a pattern. The Spiritual Sword, Bulletin Briefs and other papers like them regularly attack (and rightly so) those who are fellowshiping denominations, urging the use of instrumental music or liberalizing the woman’s role in the assembly. They talk about the lack of Bible authority for many practices, the importance of not changing the church one bit, and how we must follow God’s word exactly. Yet in the midst of such fine preaching their own actions betray them! What is the difference, pray tell, in a million dollar gymnasium which brother Miller avows is a “misguided effort” and an “appeal to the lust of the flesh” and a fellowship hall in which brethren have social occasions and meals? If a church can spend one dime on fun and games for its members, in principle, can it not spend two dimes and then five dimes and then fifty million dimes? There is no difference in principle in a church building a fellowship hall to eat in and have fun in and a church building a massive gymnasium in which to eat and have fun in, is there? Yet why is one decried and the other tolerated and accepted?

It has become quite popular by some to denounce the liberalism of many in churches of Christ. Attacking Max Lucado, Jeff Walling, Rubel Shelley and some giant congregation somewhere that is as denominational as possible makes good copy and impresses brethren with “sound preaching.” Yet while understanding that there is much that needs to be said in those directions is it not hypocritical to continue in our own favorite sins while denouncing others’? If they are wrong for their big gym are we not just as wrong for our fellowship hall? If they are in sin for ignoring the New Testament pattern for worship by introducing a piano why is it right for us for us to ignore the New Testament pattern for church work by engaging in unlimited benevolence?

Much of the apostasy in mainstream churches of Christ is so far gone that it cannot be checked. What remains to be done is for every individual Christian to study, to think, and to determine that he or she will be absolutely true to all that New Testament Christianity requires. That attitude and that determination will unite brethren in the work of Christ, and see an end to many practices for which no Bible authority can be produced.